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Just glow with it: local photographers snap ‘ghost mushroom’ while they can

Elka Wood 4 May 2019
Tracey Harris has a specific goal for her daily walk these days - to find these ghost mushrooms and note where they are so that she and husband Peter can photograph them at night. Picture: Peter Harris.

Tracey Harris has a specific goal for her daily walk these days – to find ghost mushrooms and note their location so that she and husband Peter can photograph them at night. Photo: Peter Harris.

If you’ve been for a walk in the forest lately, chances are you’ve walked straight past a colony of ghost mushrooms – a creamy white, orange or purple oyster-shaped fungi which often grow at the base of trees.

But at night, you can’t miss the rare bioluminescent fungus [Omphalotus nidiformis] or ‘Ghost Mushroom,’ as it glows with white light, radiating from its gills, which appears green in photographs.

Local photographers are going to great lengths to capture the eerie green glow while the fungi are visible above ground.

“We love to explore our local nature reserve looking for unusual fungi and since we’ve discovered the ghost mushrooms, my wife, Tracey, looks for them during the day and then we go back at night,” says Peter Harris, of Merimbula, who enjoys the challenge of photographing in tricky light.

Peter’s night time ghost mushrooms photos were taken with a 30-second exposure.

A cluster of ghost mushrooms in daylight. Picture: Facebook.

A cluster of ghost mushrooms in daylight. Photo: Facebook.

The best places to look for ghost mushrooms are areas with plenty of rotting wood, especially Casuarinas, Peter advises.

Casuarinas are not unlike the imported pine trees grown on plantations so it’s no surprise that Omphalotus nidiformis, although a native fungus, has its most famous habitat in a pine plantation near Mount Gambier in South Australia, known in the autumn as Ghost Mushroom Lane.

Peter and Tracey recently found the fungi at Araganu Beach and around Tathra but they most often frequent the Flora and Fauna reserve between Mirador and Tura Beach when looking for fungi.

Symony Douglas is a discovery ranger with Merimbula National Parks and is passionate about educating people about the world of fungus.

“This time of year is the best for spotting fungus because it’s what we call ‘fruiting’ or ‘flowering’ which are the parts of fungus that we see above ground. But of course, the fungus is always there!”

Scientists still don't understand why some fungi glow. Theories that it was to attract insects to spread it's spores have been disproven. Picture: Peter Harris.

Scientists still don’t understand why some fungi glow. Theories that it was to attract insects to spread its spores have been disproven. Photo: Peter Harris.

Ms Douglas says that although it’s usually autumn rain that brings about a burst of fungus, this year, although there has been little rain in recent weeks, the “phenomenally moist and humid summer we’ve had has meant there is enough moisture around for a good crop of mushrooms.”

Laughing, Ms Douglas says she no longer puts limitations on where people might find interesting fungus –

“Because, often, it’s behind their house! I took my kids for a walk the other day and we found fungus growing in the sand at North Tura Beach. In the right conditions, fungus can flower anywhere. But don’t underestimate how quickly fungus appears after a downpour – you can find it when it’s still raining, it works so quickly!”

If you are interested in learning more about local fungus or taking part in a guided nature walk, please contact Merimbula National Parks and Wildlife Office.

Ms Douglas recommends an app, Fun-Key, developed by The University of Melbourne, to help novice fungi-hunters identify their finds.

Please don’t eat ghost mushrooms, which are poisonous, and always consult an expert before eating any wild fungus.

What's Your Opinion?

23 Responses to Just glow with it: local photographers snap ‘ghost mushroom’ while they can

Jo 12:14 am 18 Jul 19

Wow! In my backyard! will be hunting ghosts from here on in.

FungiHunterSA 9:30 pm 18 May 19

Have you seen this place? https://www.forestrysa.com.au/ghostmushrooms/

Christopher Nicholls Christopher Nicholls 11:51 pm 08 May 19

In my garden. Note that they glow very faintly at night - the photo above is a long exposure to capture the light.

Kerri-Lee Harris 10:03 am 07 May 19

Yes, this species is certainly creating a lot of attention. Here's a link to a local blog post by Paul Whitington, further investigating the nature of the bioluminescence

https://southernforestlife.net/happenings/2019/4/28/luminescent-ghosts

The next Atlas Naturalists Workshop (10th May) will include a special presentation on fungi, and the opportunity to identify fungi or photos that people bring along. Everyone interested in nature is most welcome to come along.

More information here: https://atlasoflife.org.au/atlas-naturalists-events/2019/5/10/workshop

Mandi Stevenson Mandi Stevenson 10:34 am 05 May 19

Liz Allen have you found this one yet?

Chris Laursen Chris Laursen 3:36 am 05 May 19

I’ve seen them when walking through the forest at night, they’re pretty amazing!

Donald Smith Donald Smith 12:52 am 05 May 19

Great find

Mark Berry Mark Berry 9:11 pm 04 May 19

Spectacular!

Tajshmar Keese Tajshmar Keese 8:35 pm 04 May 19

I found these ones at Fairhaven near Bermagui a couple of weeks back and also used to see them years ago at Upper Brogo

Lynneeta Darmody Lynneeta Darmody 7:40 pm 04 May 19

Just how amazing is this? Thank you for the info! 👍

Lynn Morrissey Lynn Morrissey 3:28 pm 04 May 19

Kat Patton plenty of Casuarina trees on the Candalagan Creek track

    Kat Patton Kat Patton 4:15 pm 04 May 19

    Lynn Morrissey thank you gorgeous Woman for the heads up xx

    Marie Zuvich Marie Zuvich 5:02 pm 04 May 19

    and had one in our backyard but gone now. will let you know next year. so stunning

Christine Mundy Christine Mundy 3:27 pm 04 May 19

Fantastic Peter Harris and Tracey Harris. I told you you should be in magazines. Well here’s the beginning in the newspaper. Congratulations to you both. ❤️

Anna Quinlan Anna Quinlan 1:44 pm 04 May 19

Jodie Petrov - does Andrew have a snap of this one? 🍄

    Jodie Petrov Jodie Petrov 4:45 pm 04 May 19

    Andrew saw this article and after looking at lots of daytime pics is SURE that he saw these while we were in Merimbula so is incredibly disappointed that he didn't go out at night!!

Tony Cullinan Tony Cullinan 11:46 am 04 May 19

Saw a great photo of the Milky Way with one of these i the foreground. It was beautiful...

Kirsten Badham Kirsten Badham 11:41 am 04 May 19

We have a large patch on out property that comes up each year.

Sandy Lewis Sandy Lewis 11:39 am 04 May 19

Krysia St Clair.. here's one def. for you !

Steve Sass Steve Sass 10:50 am 04 May 19

Kianinny Bush Cottages Kianinny Bush Cottages I think this is your fungus!

    Christine Mundy Christine Mundy 3:32 pm 04 May 19

    Steve Sass I think it’s at Blackfellows Lake too.

    Peter Whiter Peter Whiter 7:41 pm 04 May 19

    Christine Mundy they are everywhere!

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